Discussing the coronavirus — as discussing diet, exercise, and drinking and substance habits — prompts the question of one’s “hastening” or “delaying” one’s earthly death.
In Psalm 139:16, the Divinely-inspired psalmist David says that God’s eyes saw his unformed substance and that in God’s book were written all of the days that were formed for him when none of those days yet were.
That passage certainly speaks of God’s knowing all people before we are conceived and, as part of that foreknowledge, His knowing how long we will live, though Psalm 139:16 need not necessarily mean that God has fatalistically pre-determined the number of our days.
Passages such as Job 14:5, however, seem to state more explicitly that God has providentially “determined,” or at least permitted the determination of, a human being’s days and in some sense “has” the number of a person’s months, though there are also examples where that seemingly determined number “changes,” such as the “adding” of 15 years to Hezekiah’s life (Isaiah 38:5).
Considering perspective helps: things that we are “free” to do or not do here and now can determine, in some sense, whether we, from our perspective, live a relatively shorter or longer time, but God “already” knows what we “will” do, and so nothing changes the resulting time of our earthly death that is “already” known to Him outside of time.
We should be good stewards of our God-given bodies and may engage medical help when sick, but such experts do not all agree whether or not things such as isolation, masks, social-distancing and vaccines actually make a difference, humanly speaking, here and now.
Most important is that we do not get in the way of God’s determining our participation in the eternal day of the life in His presence later (Revelation 21:25), and so we let Him work in us through His Word and Sacraments.
With the Divinely-inspired psalmist Moses, we ask God to teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12), not so much for us to count our days, as to consider that their number is fixed and be ready for them to end.
When we live every day with sorrow over our sin and trust in God to forgive our sin for the sake of His Son, the God-man Jesus Christ, crucified for us and resurrected, then we truly have numbered our numbered days.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.